Flash flooding and heavy rainfall have inundated Houston and surrounding neighborhoods as officials urge Texans to stay off the roads during the Fourth of July holiday.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Houston area through the late afternoon Wednesday and warned residents to avoid flooded streets. Short bursts of heavy rainfall amounting to three to four inches within an hour hit Houston and flood the area, Ken Clark, an expert meteorologist at AccuWeather, tells TIME.
The significant flooding comes as a result of these flash floods and heavy downpours — not overflowing water from nearby rivers and waterways. “You can’t just drain that much water that quickly,” Clark said.
The rain is expected to lighten up later in the evening — which could make it possible for residents to view the planned Fourth of July fireworks. As of Wednesday afternoon, most of the city’s Fourth of July festivities were canceled, but officials were holding out hope they could still launch the fireworks display.
Prompted by heavy rainfall, the immense flooding closed down parts of the I-10 Katy Freeway in Houston — a major freeway that spans six to eight lanes wide, according to ABC 13. Local media captured videos of firefighters, police and residents saving vehicles stalled in the high flood waters.
Videos shared on social media showed cars driving the flooding and people navigating through them knee-high waters.
Local businesses and popular destinations for Independence Day activities in the area appeared closed up shop as a result of the flooding. The Houston Zoo tweeted it would close and bring its animals inside for the remainder of the day, and a number of parades in the area were cancelled, too.
While Clark said this kind of flooding isn’t necessarily common, it’s to be expected for a city based in tropical and moist climate during the summer months. Houston has a history with flooding — and the events on Wednesday were for some an eerie reminder of the devastation caused when Hurricane Harvey hit the city last August.
Harvey caused catastrophic flooding, took more than 80 lives and destroyed homes and communities in the nation’s fourth-largest city. The devastating event shed light on the city’s vulnerability to flooding, as it sits on a clay surface, near a number of waterways and along the Gulf Coast.